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Media Plays the Misinformation Game Once More

When all else fails, blame social media.

Purveyors of censorship activities enjoy tossing around two terms: misinformation and disinformation. World leaders, from President Joe Biden to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, routinely spout these words to dismiss legitimate criticisms of progressive orthodoxy or statist endeavors. A Google Trends search shows these 14-letter words have ballooned in popularity since 2020. And yet, despite the near rampant proliferation of falsities committed by the legacy media, it is social media that bears the brunt of criticism.

X, Influencers, and Misinformation

Over the past decade, reports have verified cozy relationships between social media juggernauts and governments. From The Twitter Files to The Facebook Files, Washington maintained intimate relationships with Big Tech to clamp down on speech, rein in dissenting voices, and censor unapproved content, be it opinion, news reports, or memes. Then billionaire Elon Musk came along, upsetting the digital order by acquiring Twitter, transforming it into X, and ensuring the de facto public town square remained open to a treasure trove of diverse opinions.

The Fourth Estate will seemingly never forgive Musk for committing the cardinal sin of granting users a level blue checkmark playing field with journalists espousing the three-by-five card of allowable opinion. This is apparent in the bombardment of Musk-related news coverage, such as his SpaceX rockets or the supposed rise of hate speech on the X platform. The Leviathan’s tentacles in the mainstream media are now attempting to fire off the misinformation bullets and disinformation missiles to encourage voters to reject information disseminated on Musk’s web portal.

The Associated Press published a riveting Apr. 6 article titled “Anonymous users are dominating right-wing discussions online. They also spread false information.” The piece started by reporting a false X post that claimed 220,731 illegal immigrants have registered to vote in Arizona since January 1, 2024, which garnered a quote tweet from Musk. It then grilled conservative accounts and influencers that have enjoyed a “meteoric rise” to stardom for serving as “alternative information sources.” But here is what perturbed the newswire:

“The accounts enjoy a massive reach that is boosted by engagement algorithms, by social media companies greatly reducing or eliminating efforts to remove phony or harmful material, and by endorsements from high-profile figures such as Musk. They also can generate substantial financial rewards from X and other platforms by ginning up outrage against Democrats. These influencers frequently spread misinformation and otherwise misleading content, often in service of the same recurring narratives such as alleged voter fraud, the ‘woke agenda’ or Democrats supposedly encouraging a surge of people through illegal immigration to steal elections or replace whites. They often use similar content and reshare each other’s posts.”

AP reports cited tech watchdogs that think social media platforms need to maintain spaces for anonymity but also hold those who spread lies accountable. The main areas? Election integrity and information integrity. Have X users come across deceptive posts? Absolutely. This is why Community Notes has proven to be a valuable and welcomed tool over the past year, as users can correct the record, expose deception, and share authentic sources.

Now, if the Associated Press aimed to locate odious actors that have violated election and information integrity standards, it needed to look no further than its own reports and those of other partisan media outlets.

A Trumpian Bloodbath

On March 17, AP ran with this headline: “Trump ramps up dark rhetoric in Ohio stump speech for Senate candidate Bernie Moreno.” The news publisher reported that “Trump used the stage to deliver a profanity-filled version of his usual rally speech that again painted an apocalyptic picture of the country if Biden wins a second term” because the presumptive Republican nominee said that the incumbent’s policies for the automobile industry are going to result in “a bloodbath for the country.”

Others in the Fourth Estate offered similar versions of events. The Guardian noted that “Trump predicts ‘bloodbath’ if he loses election,” NBC told its audience that “Trump says there will be a ‘bloodbath’ if he loses the election,” and Politico wrote that “Trump says country faces ‘bloodbath’ if Biden wins in November.”

The networks even had the temerity to allow guests to share these misleading interpretations. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told CNN: “We just have to win this election because he’s even predicting a bloodbath. What does that mean? He’s going to exact a bloodbath? There’s something wrong here.” Like an account sharing wrong info on X, CNN enabled a prominent individual to make false claims.

How about the time Politifact covered up for President Joe Biden when he said he traveled from Delaware to Washington on the Francis Key Scott Bridge in Baltimore by train, despite the structure not having any tracks? The fact-checking apparatus noted that social media posts sharing the president’s claim “did not present Biden’s full statement that allowed for some ambiguity; he mentioned commuting by car.”

While the 21st century has been filled with numerous examples of the establishment getting it wrong – accidentally or intentionally – the industry’s integrity has been eradicated since the 2016 election. Aside from the bloodbath hoax, the latest instance that would make Soviet propagandists blush comes from a National Public Radio (NPR) insider. Uri Berliner, an editor at the organization, who posted an in-depth article explaining how the taxpayer-funded outlet “lost America’s trust.” The most damning part of his piece was about a classic case of Trump Derangement Syndrome on display in the NPR newsroom, be it the Russian collusion saga or abandoning the Hunter Biden laptop story. Berliner wrote:

“The laptop was newsworthy. But the timeless journalistic instinct of following a hot story lead was being squelched. During a meeting with colleagues, I listened as one of NPR’s best and most fair-minded journalists said it was good we weren’t following the laptop story because it could help Trump.”

Is it any surprise that confidence in the US media matches the 2016 low, according to the latest Gallup data?

Hypocrisy

Before anyone in the media points fingers at X for spreading misinformation and disinformation, these professionals and entities must turn the mirror on themselves and examine the long list of infractions that have insulted voters’ intelligence. Is X perfect? The platform still has plenty of kinks to iron out, much like its competitors, censoring information that turned out to be true. AP and other outlets probably shouldn’t be accusing anyone of distributing misinformation and disinformation – because there’s that old adage about people in glass houses.

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